A Comparison of Brewing Scales

An Acaia Pearl on a white table with the article title on the left, "A Comparison of Brewing Scales."
Whether you are brewing coffee manually or making espresso, a scale is an essential tool. In this post, we take a look at our favorite five: Jennings, ProScale, Hario Drip Scale, Acaia Pearl, and Acaia Lunar.

To the uninitiated, the new-to-coffee person, seeing a barista use a scale to brew coffee is like watching your best friend’s dad get out a yardstick to measure the distance between his golf ball and the first hole at Pappy’s Putt-Putt for Kids. It seems superfluous, and sometimes pretentious.

But the reality is that the benefits of using a scale far outweigh the associations someone might make between you and their best friend’s dad who lives for putt-putt.

Measuring by weight offers superior precision and greater consistency, which are two key components of coffee brewing. When it comes to precision, a scale proves that weight is far more accurate than volume. If you were to measure out one cup of coffee beans, you would not get exactly one cup of grounds. The space that was once between the whole beans is reduced after grinding. In fact, this also depends on your grind size: there will be fewer pockets of air if you are grinding fine enough for espresso or turkish coffee than for a Chemex or french press. Moreover, a scale helps eliminate the differences between coffee beans, including variety, origin, and roast level. For example, a pacamara from El Salvador is going to be much larger than a Kenyan SL-28 and will therefore create larger spaces between the beans.

With regard to consistency, a scale will allow you to use the same amount of water and the same amount of coffee every time. And once you’ve dialed in a particular coffee, you can easily find it again the next time you brew.

Now, whether you are making coffee with a manual brewer or with an espresso machine, there are a number of scales on the market. Here’s a look at five of our favorites.

Jennings CJ4000 - $29

Prices here reflect current listings as of January 2018. See current prices.

A Jennings Scale on a white table.

The Jennings Scale is one that can be found in a number of coffee shops and kitchens. It offers nice functionality at a fantastic price point. It has a max capacity of 4000g and can easily switch between weighing in grams, ounces, pounds, or even pieces. It measures in 0.5g increments and has a moderately fast response time, though it can feel a bit laggy (264g mug took about 1 second), making it a satisfactory scale for manual brewing. The Jennings has a 2 minute auto-off function, which can be disabled, and is powered either by 3 AAA batteries or an included AC adapter. It also comes with a plastic cover that functions as a multi-use bowl, capable of holding a portafilter or other items larger than the scale’s weighing platform.

While the Jennings CJ4000 may not be the most attractive scale, it is a great bang-for-the-buck (or maybe bounce-for-the-ounce?) scale, perfect for manual brewing on a limited budget. And although its plastic cover works for weighing espresso doses, its 0.5g increments make it a little less precise than some of those below.

Highlights:
  • Superb introductory price.
  • Auto-off function can be disabled.
  • Powered by AAA batteries or the included AC adapter.
  • 20 year warranty.
Drawbacks:
  • 0.5g increments (not a huge issue for manual brewing, but not ideal for weighing espresso doses).
  • Bulky and uninteresting aesthetic.
  • Not sensitive enough to pick up 1 coffee bean.

ProScale XC2000 - $35

A Pro Scale on top of a white table.

The ProScale, with its retractable control panel, a footprint of 4.5” x 3.5,” and the fact that it is lightweight, make it a fine option for the home espresso user or the traveller. It has a 2000g max capacity and weighs in increments of 0.1g. And although it is sensitive enough to weigh individual coffee beans, it has a relatively slow response time of about 2 seconds, when weighing a 264g mug. The ProScale is powered by 2 AAA batteries and has a 30 second auto-off function that cannot be disabled, making it necessary to tap the brewer or scale during pre-infusion. Additionally, on top of measuring in grams, ounces, and pounds, you can also weigh in grains, carats, pennyweight, and troy ounces. So, if you plan to weigh other things besides coffee, like your stacks of gold or bags of diamonds, this will work splendidly.

When it comes to using the ProScale as an espresso scale, it is fairly easy to hit a desired target weight, though it’s necessary to cut off the water about 3-4 grams prior (about 2 grams earlier than the Lunar). For example, with a target weight of 40g, it works best to cut off the water at about 36g. One caveat, though, is that it is not waterproof, and the design appears to catch liquids that fall off the weighing platform. However, in the end, the ProScale makes a great espresso scale at a price that doesn’t hurt much.

As a pour over scale, it functions much better with single-cup drip brewers or an AeroPress than with larger brewers, like a Chemex, which can cover the control panel or slide off the back of the scale. Nevertheless, this would make a great travel scale, perfect for backpacking, taking back and forth between home and the office, or the businessperson who spends a lot of time on a plane.

Highlights:
  • Compact size, excellent for espresso or travel.
  • Pop-out control panel.
  • Weighs in increments of 0.1g.
  • Sensitive enough to weigh 1 coffee bean.
  • Fits on most espresso machine drip trays.
Drawbacks:
  • 30 second auto-off function cannot be disabled.
  • Slowest response time.
  • Design seems to catch spilled liquids and does not accomodate large manual brewers.
  • Not waterproof.

Hario Drip - $48

A Hario Drip Scale on top of a white table.

Hario, known for their V60, Buono Kettles, and coffee siphons, offers an equally reputable scale. Designed specifically for the specialty coffee community, the Hario Drip Scale brings together both a gram scale and a built-in timer, two things that are essential when brewing manually. It has a 2000g max capacity and varying scale intervals, depending on weight, of 0.1g (2~200g), 0.5g (200~500g), and 1.0g (500~2000g).While the Hario Drip has a slightly somewhat slow response time (264g mug took about 1.5 seconds), its built-in timer, ease of use, and improved aesthetic make this a favorite to many. It is powered by 2 AAA batteries and has a 5 minute auto-off feature, unless the timer is started, which then extends the feature to 99:59.

Brewing coffee manually requires both a scale and a timer, and The Hario Drip Scale is both of those things in one, at a reasonable price, making this a great scale for daily manual brewing without breaking the bank. On top of this, Hario also makes a V60 Drip Station, which adds stability and class to your brewing routine.

Highlights:
  • Built-in timer.
  • Easy to use, with touch-sensitive buttons.
  • Scale sensitivity is fantastic after 2 grams.
  • 5 minute auto-off feature extends to 99:59 when timer is being used.
Drawbacks:
  • Varying increments, depending on weight -- 0.1g (2~200g), 0.5g (200~500g), and 1.0g (500~2000g).
  • Even when a portafilter is tared out, the scale will not weigh in 0.1g increments.
  • Only measures in grams.
  • Scale does not start weighing until 2 grams are added.

Acaia Pearl - $140

Comes in two different colors (add $10 for black version).

Acaia scales have quickly become an industry favorite, offering unparalleled functionality and an elegant, minimalist design. The Pearl is Acaia’s manual brewing scale, featuring a larger weighing platform that’s perfect for any brewing device. Alongside its touch-sensitive controls, built-in timer, adjustable auto-off function (5, 10, 20, 30, 60 min or off), spill-resistant outer shell, included silicone heat pad, and 2000g max capacity (70.54oz), the Pearl features a 0.1g sensitivity, an unmatched 20ms response time, Bluetooth 4.0 capabilities, and 6 different modes of operation. And if that weren’t enough, it also features an internal, rechargeable battery that lasts 25 hours per charge (using a common micro-USB cable, charging only takes 1~2 hours). Although the Pearl can be used while charging, accuracy is reduced, being only precise to the whole gram.

What sets the Acaia apart from other scales is its capability to change weighing modes. There are six modes that you can use simply by using a long hold on the power button. These modes include: Weight only, Espresso, Weight and Timer, Auto Start, Beverage, and Auto Tare. So, for example, if you are using the Auto Start mode, the scale will display a timer up to 9:99 and weight in grams, and after zeroing out the brewing materials, the timer digits will flash and automatically start once the user begins pouring.

While all of those features are remarkable, the Pearl shines even brighter when used alongside one of its Acaia companion apps (available on both iOS and Android platforms). These apps allow you to log brewing parameters, share pictures and recipes, adjust scale settings, view detailed graphs with visible reference to your pour rate, and even stay up to date with the latest firmware.

The Acaia Pearl is perfect for the coffee enthusiast, the person who loves to nerd-out over manually brewed coffee, as well as the café with a brew bar, one where precision and craft are of utmost importance.

Highlights:
  • Beautiful, modern-minimalist design.
  • Incredibly fast response time (20ms).
  • Scale sensitivity of 0.1g all the way up to max capacity.
  • Adjustable auto-off function (5, 10, 20, 30, 60, off).
  • Built-in, rechargeable battery (25 hour battery life).
  • Acaia Apps and Bluetooth capabilities allow an enhanced brewing experience.
  • Includes silicone heat pad that doubles as a portafilter leveler.
Drawbacks:
  • Price tag is significantly higher than those above.
  • A larger learning curve than others.

Acaia Lunar - $220

Like the Pearl, the Lunar has a 2000g max capacity, an ultra-fast response time, the ability to measure in grams or ounces, 0.1g increments, a built-in timer, a rechargeable battery, an adjustable auto-off timer (5, 10, 20, 30, 60, off), touch-sensitive controls, 6 modes of operation, Bluetooth 4.0 capabilities, and enhanced features alongside companion apps.

Unlike the Pearl, however, the Lunar features an anodized aluminum body that is completely waterproof. In fact, you can completely submerge this scale under water, dry it off, and return it to use without harm. Moreover, Acaia’s two year warranty actually covers liquid damage.

The Lunar also differs from the Pearl in that it offers different modes that are more tailored to making espresso. You can change between these modes by using a long hold on the power button. These modes include: Weight only, Weight and Timer, Auto Start Droplet (starts and stops when scale detects water flow), Auto Start Triangle (scale auto-tares after a stable weight is added, then timer starts), and Auto Start Square (auto-tare of stable weight added to scale).

Thus, Acaia has taken all of the amazing things about the Pearl and shrunken it down into a smaller scale with a few more benefits, making the Lunar a near-flawless scale for making espresso. It truly is an ideal scale for the quality-focused café or the home espresso-making enthusiast, situations where precision is central, multifunctionality is desired, and durability is favored.

Highlights:
  • Attractive, modern-minimalist design.
  • Incredibly fast response time.
  • Scale sensitivity of 0.1g all the way up to max capacity.
  • Adjustable auto-off function (5, 10, 20, 30, 60, off).
  • Built-in, rechargeable battery (20 hour battery life).
  • Acaia Apps and Bluetooth capabilities allow an enhanced brewing experience.
  • Includes protective feet, 100g calibration weight, and a heat-proof silicone pad that can hold a portafilter.
  • 2 year warranty covers liquid damage.
Drawbacks:
  • Most expensive of the scales on this list.
  • A larger learning curve than others.
The Pro Scale, Hario Drip Scale, Jennings, Acaia Pearl, and Acaia Lunar on top of a table.

Conclusion

So the next time someone compares you to their best friend’s Dad who loves putt-putt more than life, remind yourself that the benefits of using a scale far outbalance those lame associations. Brewing with a scale offers improved precision and repeatability, which are both vital for making exceptional coffee, giving you a much better chance at finding and maintaining each coffee’s sweet spot.

While there are a number of things to consider when brewing coffee (like your grinder, your kettle, your espresso machine, and your water), a scale is an important piece of the puzzle, and we think that these are the best out there. If you need help finding the best one for you, hit us up. We’d love to talk to you!

 

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I just recently bought one of these things online and it does help a lot with your coffee servings. I mean I'm not a pro but i like my coffee just right, but the scale I bought is not on the list. Maybe you guys should give it a try, I'ts called Arc by Felicita it's a pretty good product I thought it was going to be one of those cheap products that stopped working 2 weeks in, but 4 months later my scale still works just fine and i has a cool design to it.

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